I've recently started a conversation-based class with a seventh grade student named Young Uhl after my regular classes, three times a week, at Swaton (my hagwan). I'm not really sure who wants these classes--Young Uhl, or Young Uhl's parents--but I'm going to guess the latter, considering he's fourteen.
Like most fourteen year olds, Young Uhl is terribly awkward. According to Michael, my manager, this kid has some serious English skillz, but even so, our "conversations" end up being forty-five minute interviews--I ask hundreds of questions, to which Young Uhl responds "Yes" or "No". I try to avoid the obvious yes/no pitfall, but alas, I still get one-word answers like "Wednesday," "living room," "clever," and the like. I try and be understanding--I can only imagine how uncomfortable it must be as a teenager to talk with someone in a second language--but still, even considering the cultural/language barriers, is it really so bad that he has to shift around in his seat every twenty seconds and constantly fiddle with his cell phone? Am I really so frosty/intimidating that he can't laugh at a single one of my terrible jokes?
So the other day, I leave work after finishing my conversation class with Young Uhl. I'm walking home, and am forced to stop and wait for a light to change. I have my iPod blasting (I've been listening to The Very Best's Warm Heart of Africa lately, download that shiz now), but I look over, and wouldn't you know, Young Uhl is standing next to me, so I take out my earbuds and start to talk to him.
Me: Hey there!
Young Uhl: Hello (looks at feet, looks up/away from me with a hundred-yard stare).
Me: Are you going home?
Young Uhl: Yes (again with the hundred-yard stare away from me).
Me: Uh, so is that your bus stop over there (points to bus stop twenty yards away)?
Young Uhl: Yes.
Me: Gosh, it sure is getting cold outside these days! Is that the only jacket you have? (points to Young Uhl's flimsy hoodie, fills eyes with concern)
Young Uhl: Yes (LIAR, I saw you wearing a bigger jacket in class the other day)
Me: (with as much animation as possible) WOW! You'd better buy a warmer jacket soon, or you're going to freeze!
Young Uhl: Yes.
Then the light changes, and Young Uhl literally runs across the street away from me without saying goodbye. Or even waving. From my experience, finishing a conversation is a given nicety regardless of where you come from, no? And I am 100% positive this kids knows how to say, at the very least "See you later..."
But it gets better. As detailed in the above "conversation," Young Uhl's bus stop is only twenty yards away, so he is forced to stop and wait for his bus. I walk awkwardly across the street and pass him, again. I make sure to turn and say "Goodbye!" and smile. He looks through me as if I don't exist.
And I laugh all the way home. Teenagers these days.